Irgens-Jensen studied piano with Nils Larsen while a philology student at the University of Oslo. Irgens-Jensen undertook all of his musical studies, apart from the piano lessons, on his own and he never had a teacher in composition. As time passed, thorough studies of musical scores and topics in music theory took much his time. He also had short periods of study in Germany, Denmark and France.
Irgens-Jensen debuted as a composer in 1920 with a number of vocal pieces that generated considerable interest and were generally viewed by listeners and domestic critics of the era as being quite radical. Throughout Irgens-Jensen’s career, vocal music would constitute a vital part of his production. One of the most widely recognized works is the song Altar, written to a poem by Halldis Moren Vesaas.
Irgens-Jensen wrote the oratorio Heimferd, a "dramatic symphony" for solo choir and orchestra, for the 1930 900th anniversary celebration in commemoration of the death of the king Saint Olav which led to the Christianization of Norway. Irgens-Jensen was bestowed with a first prize in a 1930 national composition competition held in commemoration of Saint Olav’s death. Heimferd, which features texts by novelist Olav Gullvåg, generated considerable public attention upon its premiere and was performed twelve times in the ensuing months in order to meet the public’s demand. Heimferd is widely regarded as a national Norwegian monument both in terms of its content and musical material, and represents a major work within the Norwegian oratorical tradition. Other key Irgens-Jensen vocal works includes Der Gott und die Bajadere (Text: Goethe), a cantata from 1932, and Japanischer Frühling (Japanese Spring, with Japanese poetry), a vocal cycle composed in 1957.
From an early stage in his compositional career, Irgens-Jensen would also focus on larger instrumental works. Tema con variazioni (1925/34) and Passacaglia (1927) are works that represent Irgens-Jensen’s orchestral production and are widely regarded as essential works in the Norwegian literature for orchestra. A few of Irgens-Jensen’s works from this era feature national traits, one of which is his orchestral suite Partita sinfonica (1939) which is based on the composer’s stage music for Hans E. Kinck’s drama Driftekaren (The Drover).
World War II left a clear and indelible mark on Irgens-Jensen’s compositional output, and he wrote a number of songs and choral works with patriotic texts - works that due to the occupying Nazi forces censorship would be distributed anonymously and illegally. The war years also saw Irgens-Jensen composing his Symphony in D minor, which won first prize at a secret competition held in 1943, marking the 25th anniversary of the Norwegian Society of Composers.
- Violin Sonata in B-flat (1923)
- Tema con variazioni (1925)
- Piano Quintet (1927)
- Passacaglia (1927)
- Heimferd (1930)
- Der Gott und die Bajadere (1932)
- Partita Sinfonica (1938)
- Pastorale religioso (1939)
- Symphony in D minor (1941)
- Canto d'omaggio (1950)
- Japanischer Frühling (1957)
- Air (1959)
Discography (selected releases)
- Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Symphony in d minor ; Air ; Passacaglia (2011)
- Solveig Kringlebotn, To a Friend (2003)
- Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Ragnhild Heiland Sørensen, Eivind Aadland, Japanischer Frühling (2002)
- Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, Heimferd (1994)
- Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Ludvig Irgens-Jensen, Tema con Variazioni - Sinfonia in Re - Japanischer Frühling (1993)
- Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Ludvig Irgens-Jensen, Passacaglia & Partita Sinfonica · Sonata for Violin and piano (1988)
- "Bio from record label Grappa". grappa.no. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
- "Bio from MIC Music Information Centre Norway". listento.no. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
- "Bio from MIC Naxos". naxos.com. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
- "The Classical Reviewer on new Irgens-Jensen biography". theclassicalreviewer.blogspot.no. Retrieved 2017-01-31.